IWF global figures show online child sexual abuse imagery up by a third
New data shows 37% increase in child sexual abuse URLs
Figures released today (18/04/2018) by the Internet Watch Foundation (IWF),
the charity that searches for and removes online child sexual abuse imagery,
show that more of this disturbing material is being found than ever before.
The data is published in the IWF’s Annual Report (www.iwf.org.uk) which
provides a yearly global measure of the number of online images and videos
of children being sexually abused to government, the police and the internet
industry. The eagerly awaited report also contains trends in how services are
being abused by offenders to host this illegal material.
Gibraltar is member of the IWF global network of Reporting Portals, a simple
web-based, safe and anonymous way for citizens everywhere (inc Gibraltar)
to send suspected online reports of child sexual abuse material directly to the
IWF expert Analysts. They assess the reports and if applicable, have the
content removed. The Gibraltar Reporting Portal is available here:
Key figures and trends in the Annual Report include:
- Confirmed child sexual abuse URLs (2017) 78,589. This is up by 37%
from 57,335 in 2016.
- Severity up. Category A content, which includes the rape and sexual
torture of children, is up by 5%, from 28% of all content to 33%.
- Disguised website abuse in unprecedented increase. The IWF saw a 86%
rise in use of disguised websites, from 1,572 in 2016 to 2,909 in 2017. This
implicates increased intelligence among offenders, who may be going to new
lengths to evade detection.
- Global hosting of child sexual abuse images:
o Europe worst offender for hosting. Europe now hosts 65% of all
confirmed IWF child sexual abuse imagery. This is up from 60% last
year. The Netherlands continues to be the worst country for hosting
child sexual abuse material.
o Asia: In 2017, 1,627 webpages containing child sexual abuse imagery
were hosted in Asia (2%).
o Africa: In 2017, only 20 webpages containing child sexual abuse
imagery were hosted in Africa (<1%).
o South America: Only 10 webpages containing child sexual abuse
imagery were hosted in South America (<1%).
- Website brands. The number of child sexual abuse website brands
rose by 112%.
- Websites and newsgroups. In total, 80,318 reports of confirmed child
sexual abuse were processed by the IWF, up from 59,548 in 2016.
This was a 35% increase.
- New IWF Reporting Portals worldwide: In 2017 the IWF has
launched Portals in three countries: Namibia, Tanzania and
Mozambique. The IWF has also been awarded a grant from the Fund
to End Violence Against Children to launch 30 Reporting Portals in the
world’s least developed counties in the next three years, being
Tanzania the first Portal under the grant.
- 636 reports from Portals: The IWF received 636 reports from the
global Portals network in 2017.
IWF’s CEO Susie Hargreaves OBE, said: “Our Annual Report is used as a
reference and information tool, to give an accurate global picture of online
child sexual abuse imagery. I’m incredibly proud that our Hotline has been
able to remove more webpages that contain disturbing images of children
being abused, than ever before from the internet. We share our analysis of
trends with our partners – in government, law enforcement and industry, so
that together we can fight this horrific crime.”
Much of the analysis for the 2017 IWF Annual Report makes for
uncomfortable reading, with the images and videos found having increased in
their severity. The most serious Category A images, depicting rape and
sexual torture, rose to 33% from 28%. Category B images rose from 19% to
Significantly, the IWF also saw an increase of 86% in disguised websites,
from 1,572 websites in 2016, to 2,909 in 2017. These are websites where the
child sexual abuse content is only revealed to someone who has followed a
pre-set digital pathway. To anyone else, they will only show legal content.
This finding indicates an increased intelligence among a select number of
offenders, who are going to new lengths to evade detection.
Europe now accounts for 65% of all child sexual abuse imagery the IWF sees,
up from 60% last year. It continues to be the worst continent for child sexual
abuse material. The top hosting countries of child sexual abuse URLs are the
Netherlands, USA, Canada, France and Russia. The Netherlands now hosts
36% of child sexual abuse content, down from 37% last year, while North
America has decreased by more than 4% from 22% to 18%. Overall, 87% of
all child sexual abuse URLs identified globally in 2017 were hosted in just
these top five countries.
Susie Hargreaves OBE, IWF CEO, said: “We are now receiving more
reports of child sexual abuse content than ever before. This year we’re seeing
offenders getting smarter and finding new ways to abuse legitimate internet
services. Our trends analysis tracks this development. It’s concerning that
offenders appear to be increasingly using concealed digital pathways to
prevent law enforcement and hotlines around the world detecting these
criminal websites. We are making huge technological advances, which we’ll
be announcing later in the year, but we also need to continue to work globally,
in partnership, to fight this disturbing crime. This battle cannot be won in
“The child victims of sexual abuse online are revictimised again and again,
every time their picture is shared. The experience they go through at such a
young age is unimaginably horrific, and they frequently take this pain into
adulthood with them. That’s why at the IWF we fight every day to make sure
these images and videos are removed from the internet, so that victims are no
longer forced to live with the torment of others seeing the images of their
“While I’m so proud of our Hotline for the sheer number of child sexual abuse
URLs they’re removing online, these figures show what a vast amount of
content is out there. Sadly, this could just be the tip of the iceberg.”
Detective Superintendent (Des) Wayne Tunbridge of the Royal Gibraltar
Police said: “The IWF has done sterling work in identifying and removing a
huge number of online images and videos depicting child sexual abuse. The
RGP joined the IWF’s global partnership in early 2016, with the IWF “Gibraltar
Online Portal” launching on the 1st June 2016. The RGP is proud of our
association with IWF and its 22 year long mission to help protect victims of
this type of abuse and make the internet a safer place.
We will continue to support their wider international efforts alongside our work
with other international law enforcement partners, and equally as important,
our work within the local community, and in particular our schools.”
More top stats and trends from IWF’s 2017 Annual Report:
- In 2017, IWF Analysts assessed a webpage every four minutes. Every
7 minutes, that webpage showed a child being sexually abused. In
2016, Analysts saw a child being sexually abused every 9 minutes.
- In total, 80,318 reports of confirmed child sexual abuse were
processed by the IWF, up from 59,548 in 2016. This was overall a 35%
increase. This figure includes URLs and newsgroups.
- In 2017, the IWF’s Analysts found 78,589 URLs containing child sexual
abuse material, and 571 newsgroups – of which 43,767 individual
posts were removed from public access.
- Image hosting sites continue to be the most abused service at 69% of
- More images featured children aged 0 to 10 than last year, rising from
53% to 55%, with images featuring 11 to 15 year-olds dropping from
45% to 43%. Children aged two or under accounted for 2% of content.
The last 2% were pages with links to child sexual abuse content.
- Of the victims, 86% were girls, 7% were boys and 5% featured both
- A total of 77,082 unique URLs were included on the IWF’s URL list, a
44% increase on 53,552 included in 2016.
- With a 57% increase on last year, more domain names than ever
before are being used to host images and videos of children being
sexually abused. With 3,791 domains being found this year, compared
to 2,416 in 2016, 1,991 in 2015 and 1,694 in 2014, there has been a
rise of 124% in four years.
- In 2017, the IWF took action against 5,002 URLs on websites using
new generic top-level domains (gTLDs). These URLs were located
across 1,063 different domains and 50 different new gTLDs. In 2016,
action was taken to remove 1,559 URLs from websites using new
- During 2017, the IWF added 130,671 hashes to its Hash List. At the
end of 2017, the list contained hashes relating to 295,389 individual
images. Of these hashes, 76,459 relate to the worst forms of abuse –
images of rape or sexual torture of children.
- Each of the IWF’s 13 Analysts saw 10,889 child sexual abuse images
when adding to the IWF’s Hash List, alongside reviewing public reports
and actively searching for child sexual abuse images and videos.
- Exactly 50% of the IWF’s reports were proactively sourced while the
other 50% were sent in by the public.